In Conversation with…Deirdre Kennedy, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, IBM

We are excited to launch the new series” In Conversation With…” exclusive for CSR News Ireland, giving you the opportunity to get to know CSR professionals from some of Ireland’s largest businesses leading the way in Corporate Social Responsibility.

This month we are delighted to kick off the series with Deirdre Kennedy, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs at IBM Ireland.

Please describe your role and responsibilities, how many years you have been in the company?
I am the Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager at IBM Ireland.  I’ve been with the company for 20 years, which is a scarily long time but it really doesn’t feel that long!  It’s a great company to work for and it is constantly evolving, I think that’s what makes working here so interesting.

What was your background previously, how did you enter the CSR field?
My background is in Communications, when I started in IBM I worked in Internal Communications and then in External Communications/Media Relations, however, when the role came up in CSR I jumped at the opportunity.  I had gained a lot of experience in Communications and worked alongside the previous two CSR managers so had a good feel for the role and for IBM’s strategy in this area.  It was a role that I knew I would love and could add value to.

How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
IBM has had a Corporate Citizenship function for as long as the company has been in existence, which is over 100 years.  As with most well-established companies, our CSR strategy has shifted from the Legal/Compliance stage, through Strategic Philanthropy (we moved away from “cheque book philanthropy many years ago), right along what’s known as the CSR Value Curve to where it is now fully aligned with our business strategy.  We consider sustainability not only to be around environmental sustainability but also social responsibility to our employees, clients and the communities we live and work in.  Our CSR strategy is about driving systemic transformation and our programme delivery reflects that.  We seek out the right organisations to work with, those that share our view that innovation, experience and capacity, deep subject-matter expertise, and commitment to sustainability and scalability are essential to achieve maximum value and impact.

What are the challenges you encounter in driving the sustainability agenda and how do you stay inspired?
One of the biggest challenges is people confusing philanthropy with CSR/Sustainability. I think we still have a long way to go to change that mindset.  Programmes that are scalable and will result in transformation and therefore deliver real impact can be challenging, require time and hard work, not everyone has the capacity or the willingness to put that effort in.  What keeps me inspired is the programmes that we have at IBM and the transformation I see taking place as a result.  These are programmes that are driving real and sustainable change.  The positive feedback we get from the organisations we partner with makes it all worthwhile.

What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?
My biggest accomplishment was also a real learning experience.  I was selected to go on IBM’s highly competitive leadership development programme, Corporate Service Corps this year.  This is a 6-month programme which includes 3 months pre-work, one month on the ground in a growth market working with a non-profit organisation on a business/social issue and 2 months post-assignment work.  I travelled to Puerto Montt, Chile with 11 colleagues from 9 different countries, we had met on pre-work calls but for the first time in person when we arrived in Chile.  My project was with a Sustainability NGO developing a social media and marketing plan for the launch of a new platform. This was as a result of a micro-zoning project they had recently carried out with many stakeholders from across many sectors and organisations.  The cultural and learning experience was really life enriching and something that I am truly grateful for.

What is your motto in life?
I really believe if you have your health you are a millionaire, we should all be more grateful for what we have. I am generally a glass half full type of person so I do tend to see the positive rather than the negative and that helps me stay balanced in what can be a sometimes frantic life!

What would a perfect day entail for you?
Being able to hit the restart button to get back to the beginning of the day and get through more of my ‘to do’ list!  In the absence of that yet to be invented technology, a perfect day for me is my family going to bed happy and healthy and without any worries, everything else falls into place when you have that.


If you are a member of the Network and are interested in participating in this series please contact Nathalie Pavone


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